Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Through the Air

Hebrews 11: 1-3, 8-16

Have you ever just walked out in faith?
Has there ever been a time when you forged ahead on a ‘wing and a prayer’ knowing that you have put your very being in God’s hands, without a clue as to how it would turn out?  You just knew that you must and somehow ‘every little thing’s gonna be alright’.

Welcome to my world as an interim minister!  That’s more or less what we do.  We work real hard to put ourselves out of a ‘job’ trusting that God has been working equally as hard to ready another church for our specialized ministry.

Crazy huh??  Today’s sermon is about walking, going maybe even flying out in faith trusting with all of your heart that you will be caught in God’s very capable hands.

Faith!  Particularly Christian faith is a bit hard to explain to someone who does not believe.  They might think we are crazy, some of the things that we do in complete faith that God will take care of us, that we will not be left flapping in the breeze.
The Letter to the Hebrews is a rather forceful book about faith.  It attempts to explain what faith is all about for these ‘new Christians’.  You see both Jews and Gentiles had questions about this religion of the early Christians.  The author attempts to explain that it has its beginnings in the Jewish religion but that it is different.  The primary difference being of course, Jesus Christ and his unorthodox sense and view of Torah, or the law.

Hear now today’s word from the Epistle to the Hebrews from the Contemporary English Version: 

Faith makes us sure of what we hope for and gives us proof of what we cannot see. It was their faith that made our ancestors pleasing to God.

Because of our faith, we know that the world was made at God’s command. We also know that what can be seen was made out of what cannot be seen.

Abraham had faith and obeyed God. He was told to go to the land that God had said would be his, and he left for a country he had never seen.  Because Abraham had faith, he lived as a stranger in the promised land. He lived there in a tent, and so did Isaac and Jacob, who were later given the same promise. Abraham did this, because he was waiting for the eternal city that God had planned and built.

Even when Sarah was too old to have children, she had faith that God would do what he had promised, and she had a son. Her husband Abraham was almost dead, but he became the ancestor of many people. In fact, there are as many of them as there are stars in the sky or grains of sand along the beach.

Every one of those people died. But they still had faith, even though they had not received what they had been promised. They were glad just to see these things from far away, and they agreed that they were only strangers and foreigners on this earth. Amen!

Faith.  It is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. 

You see God told Abraham to get up and go, to grab his wife Sarah, pack up their camels and tents and head on off.  Where?  Abraham had no clue.  But he did have faith and we know that faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

And Sarah, bless her heart following Abraham all around God’s earth, she was elderly when she finally became pregnant.  Remember?  She LOL’d, laughed out loud when she heard the news that finally, after all these barren years, she was going to have a baby.  But she eventually believed and relied on her faith that all would be ok, and we know that faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

By faith they both went, and were blessed. 

I want to share with you a parable that I love and read and think about often.  It is a parable not from the Bible but one that was written by Henri Nouwen, a priest and theologian who has since passed away.  It is called the Parable of the Flyer and the Catcher.

“A Flyer and a Catcher enter the circus ring and greet the audience with smiles and movements that cause their wide silver capes to swirl about them. They pull themselves up into the large net and start to climb rope ladders to positions high up in the big tent.  As the Flyer swings away from the pedestal board, she somersaults and turns freely in the air, only to be safely grasped by the Catcher.”
Like Jesus, Nouwen explains his parable…

“The Flying Rodleighs are trapeze artist who perform in the German circus Simoneit-Barum.  When the circus came to Freiburg a few years ago, my friends invited me and my father to see the show.  I will never forget how enraptured I became when I saw the Rodleighs move through the air, flying and catching each other as elegant dancers.  The next day I returned to the circus to see them again and introduced myself to them to them as one of their great fans.  They invited me to attend their practice sessions, gave me free tickets, asked me to dinner, and suggested that I travel with them for a week through Germany.

I certainly was “hooked” by the Rodleighs and felt driven to see them perform again and again and to enter deeply into their world. One day I was sitting with Rodleigh, the leader of the troupe, in his caravan, talking about flying.  He said, “As a flyer, I must have complete trust in my catcher.  The public might think that I am the great star of the trapeze, but the real star is Joe, my catcher.  He has to be there for me with split-second precision and grab me out of the air as I come to him in the long jump.”  “How does it work?” I asked.  “The secret,” Rodleigh said, “is that the flyer does nothing and the catcher does everything.  When I fly to Joe, I have simply to stretch out my arms and hands and wait for him to catch me and pull me safely up.”

“You do nothing!” I said, surprised.

“Nothing,” Rodleigh repeated.  “The worst thing the flyer can do is try to catch the catcher.  I am not supposed to catch Joe.  It’s Joe’s task to catch me.  If I grab Joes wrists, I might break them, or he might break mine, and that would be the end of both of us.  A flyer must fly, and a catcher my catch, and the flyer must trust, with outstretched arms, that his catcher will be there for him.” [i]

Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
I take three lessons from Nouwen’s parable and his explanation.

1)       You have to leave the platform.  I can only imagine what it would be like to grab the bar of the ropes and take off, into the air swinging back and forth.  And yet, leaving the platform is essential to the act, to the performance, to what comes ahead. If you never leave you will never be able to soar.

2)    You have to actively participate in the act.  You see the     
        flyer has to gain momentum while in the air swinging back and forth and readies  
        his body and mind to let go.  Too me it looks like it
        takes physical strength and a fully engaged mind. 

3)       You have got to trust that you will be caught.  Once
you have left the platform and readied yourself all you have to do is fly with your arms outstretched.  God will do the rest.  It may sound easy but this is the greatest test.  Believing that God will do the rest.  This is faith.

Faith is what life is all about.  Living fully, taking good risks knowing with all of your heart that God will be waiting to catch you and bring you up onto the platform on the other side of the tent.  God never fails us therefore you will not fail either.

Let us fly through the air with the greatest of ease, like daring young men and women on the flying trapeze.


[i] Nouwen, Henri.  ‘Spiritual Direction: Wisdom for the Long Walk of Faith’. Ed Michael J. Christensen and Rebecca J. Laird. HarperCollins, NY, 2006. 


Uwe-Jens Zeder said...
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Bar20 Hoppy said...
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Suzanne said...
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